Do You Believe?
“In the late 1940s, Charles Templeton was a close friend and preaching associate of Billy Graham. He effectively preached the gospel to large crowds in major arenas. However, intellectual doubts began to nag at him. He questioned the truth of Scripture and other core Christian beliefs. He finally abandoned his faith and made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Billy to do the same. He felt sorry for Billy and commented, ‘He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind.’ Templeton resigned from the ministry and became a novelist and news commentator. He also wrote a critique of the Christian faith, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.
Journalist Lee Strobel interviewed him for his book, The Case for Faith. Templeton was 83 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He revealed some of the reasons he left the faith:
I started considering the plagues that sweep across parts of the planet and indiscriminately kill—more often than not, painfully—all kinds of people, the ordinary, the decent, and the rotten. And it just became crystal clear to me that it is not possible for an intelligent person to believe that there is a deity who loves.
Lee Strobel then asked him about Jesus and was surprised at the response. Templeton believed Jesus lived but never really considered himself to be God:
He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I've ever encountered in my life or in my readings. He's the most important thing in my life. I know it may sound strange, but I have to say I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss Him.
Templeton's eyes filled with tears and he wept freely. He refused to say more.”
Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000), pp. 7-23; submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Canada.
Struggling with my faith
I’ve never struggled with my faith to the point of Charles Templeton, where I doubted that God is who He says He is
That’s not to say that I haven’t questioned my personal relationship with Jesus a time or two
By God’s grace, when I have questioned my personal relationship with Jesus, it has always driven me to seek Him more, not to turn away from Him
I know that some people have been turned off to Christianity because of the hypocrites they have seen and experienced in their lives
Hypocrites have had the opposite effect on me – I’m not driven away from my faith, but driven forward in my faith to make sure I’m not being hypocritical
That is not an easy task
Perhaps all of us can identify a time when we struggled with our faith
What did it look like?
Was there a turning away from the Lord?
Maybe it was just questioning our personal relationship with the Lord and trying to decide if we were really a Christian
Some of us may know individuals who have been turned off to Christianity, because of the hypocrites they encountered
Fortunately, Christianity isn’t about the hypocrites, but about Jesus Christ
If we focus upon Him, we’ll see clearly that He is faithful, true, perfect, loving, gracious, and so much more
John is finishing the episode between Jesus and the man born blind. There are still Pharisees hanging around within earshot of Jesus. Through His interactions with the man and the Pharisees we’ll see today that . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus’ presence clarifies our spiritual sight.
GOD (John 9:35-41)
Belief (vv. 35-38)
Jesus’ question (v. 35)
Jesus takes the initiative when He hears that the man born blind was thrown out of the synagogue
“The Jews cast him out of the temple, and the Lord of the temple found him.” [Chris Austin cited by Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 185]
He knows the seriousness, of the man being thrown out of the synagogue
He would be cut off from all religious and social relationships he once had
As a blind person he was able to beg, but now that he had his sight, he would need to find a job
That would be nearly impossible with no social contacts
It would seem that this man’s life was over – he had no hope
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is always with us (omnipresent).
As this man found out, Jesus was concerned about him, even when his situation seemed bleak and dark
Jesus sought him out and asked him an important question – “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
We can trust that God is always with us and that Jesus will seek us out in our darkest hours
He’ll ask us the same question, “Do you believe in Me? Do you trust me?”
My Next Step Today Is To: Trust that God is always with me and that Jesus will seek me out in my darkest hour.
God and Jesus are always there for us
Hebrews 13:5-6, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
So, this man has been thrown out of the synagogue and is perhaps searching for what’s next in his life
God knows what is next for him
PRINCIPLE #2 – God continually seeks His creation, so they can believe in Him.
God wants to be in a relationship with all of humanity
He wants everyone to recognize who He is and what He did to take care of our sin
We know His will from His Word
2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, God is patiently waiting for you
God knew, before He created humanity, that we would rebel against Him and choose our own way
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 5:9, Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (we are being saved from God’s wrath, from eternal separation from Him)
God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice
God had His plan of salvation worked out long before we needed it
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God’s plan was to send His only Son, Jesus, from heaven to earth to take our punishment for sin
Jesus did that perfectly!
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and receive God’s eternal life.
Jesus has asked the man a question and his response is to ask Jesus a question
The man’s question (v. 36)
Who is he, sir?
It was a very good question, because the man didn’t know who the Son of Man was
This man did not see who had healed him and he would not have known that Jesus was referring to Himself as the Son of Man
The man is probably equating the Son of Man with the person who had healed him
In the past, the man referred to this person in three ways [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 566]
“The man called Jesus” (v. 11)
He considered Jesus a prophet (v. 17)
He also considered Jesus a man from God (v. 33)
The Greek word for “sir” is kyrios – the man is simply being respectful toward Jesus
We’ll see the second meaning for kyrios in v. 38
Eagerness to know
Notice the man’s eagerness to know who had healed him – “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of how an individual shows up and helps in a crisis, but later on no one can find that person to thank them
We have an eagerness to know who the mystery person is
As Christians, we recognize that it is an angel or Jesus, Himself, who came
Nancy Tate had an experience like that while on vacation – the man protected her from hitting her head when she passed out
Sherl & Judie Shaffer’s family had an experience like that when their grandson had his car accident – the man knew everyone’s name and was telling them that everything was going to be alright
Eagerness to hear the Gospel
When Wade was ready to believe in Jesus, he couldn’t wait for me to get home from work so we could have our own Good News Club with a Bible lesson and then the invitation
I’ve experienced that at least twice this past year when sharing the Gospel with individuals – there was an openness and eagerness to know the Son of Man, Jesus
The man’s response to Jesus’ question was a question of his own and Jesus then tells him who the Son of Man is
Jesus’ response (v. 37)
Jesus seems to do it in a roundabout way, but in doing so He is highlighting the fact that the man can now physically see
“You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Jesus is saying to the man, “I’m the Son of Man! I’m the One who healed you!”
I can only imagine how the man felt
The person who had removed a life-long ailment was now standing in front of him
He no longer had to guess what Jesus looked like and who He was
He was speaking with Him face-to-face
The man’s response is incredible!
The man’s response (v. 38)
The man becomes a follower of Jesus Christ
The Pharisees had said that this man was a disciple of Jesus Christ, but he wasn’t a follower of Jesus Christ (a Christian) yet
This man, who had never wavered in his faith, even under heavy persecution, was taking the final step toward salvation
“Lord, I believe!”
As I mentioned earlier, there is a second meaning for the Greek word kyrios
The second meaning is “Lord”
Through his transformed mind and heart, the man now knows that Jesus is the revelation of God, right in front of him, and consequently addresses Him as Lord [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 276]
At that moment the man was healed of his spiritual blindness
Jesus’ presence clarifies our spiritual sight.
Everyone and any one can be healed of their spiritual blindness, by believing in Jesus and receiving God’s gift of eternal life
I’ve already shared with you how you can do that
I want to encourage you to take that step today!
The man’s immediate response to being healed, spiritually, is worship
The man falls down in front of Jesus and worships Him
“This is the only place in this Gospel where anyone is said to worship Jesus. The verb occurs several times in chapter 4 of worshipping God, and it is found in the same sense in 12:20 . . . The man has already recognized that Jesus came from God (v. 33). Now he goes a step further. He gives to Jesus that reverence that is appropriate to God (Morris, pp. 495-96).” [Gangel, 186]
All of this is significant in identifying who Jesus is and where He has come from
Jesus accepts the man’s worship, because He is God
“Jesus’ silence signals his acceptance of the man’s worship, in contrast to the angel in the book of Revelation in the presence of the prophet John (Rev 19:10; 22:9), or Peter in the presence of Cornelius. Even though he is ‘Son of man’ (v. 37), Jesus does not, like Peter, tell his prostrate worshiper, ‘Get up. I myself am a man too!’ (Acts 10:26; see also Acts 19:15). By giving no answer, he acknowledges his deity.” [Michaels, 569]
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is pleased when His people worship Him.
When is the last time you’ve fallen on your face before God to worship Him?
Too often we’re concerned about what others may think if we express ourselves in worship, so we stand and sit when we’re told
We don’t raise our hands or clap
We don’t come to the altar and prostrate ourselves, whether or not the pastor has given an altar call
The pastor that Judy and I sat under in California told the story of how he used to be reserved in his worship, until he attended a pastor’s conference where the speaker said that when we worship, the only audience should be God or Jesus and not those around us
We can certainly worship the Lord without any of those expressions, but how is God calling you to worship Him?
Is He the only audience you have when you worship?
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to worshiping an audience of One (God), and be obedient to how He is calling me to worship Him.
The man’s salvation is an incredible climax to John’s story about him, but not everyone was ready to take that step
Unbelief (vv. 39-41)
Jesus’ statement about His purpose in coming to earth (v. 39)
He begins His statement by saying that He came for judgment
Some individuals try to say that this statement contradicts John 3:17 which says, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
We can’t stop at v. 17, but have to continue, Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18)
Jesus came into the world to offer salvation to everyone, but each person has a choice – they can believe or not believe in Jesus
When a person makes the choice to not believe in Jesus, they are condemned already, because they are born in sin
The condemnation rests with them and not with God – they’ve made their choice
Now, when Jesus Christ returns, He will judge those who have rejected God’s plan of salvation
Jesus came into the world the first time to offer salvation to humanity
When He comes into the world the second time, it will be to judge
The second part of His statement clarifies the first
There will be some who recognize their sin and turn to Jesus and believe in Him
There will be others who think they can see clearly on a spiritual level, and therefore, refuse to believe in Jesus
“Christ came to earth so that those who think they have spiritual insight may be shown to be blind, and those who do not suppose they have this spiritual insight may see. His whole argument centered around a person’s sense of need. If someone felt no need, he would not see; but those who knew they were blind were the ones who could be made to see (Hughes, p. 164).” [Hughes cited by Gangel, 186]
Jesus was obviously speaking to the man born blind in a public setting, because some Pharisees overheard what He said
The Pharisees reaction (v. 40)
Who were these Pharisees?
We can’t be certain, but there are three possibilities
They could have been the Pharisees who believed Jesus was not from God, because He healed the blind man on the Sabbath (John 9:16a)
They could also be the Pharisees who questioned how a sinner could do such miraculous signs (John 9:16b) – they were not convinced, like the other Pharisees, that Jesus was not from God
It may have been some other group of Pharisees that were not connected in any way with the two groups of Pharisees mentioned above
Who they are is less important than their question
Are we blind too?
Since the Pharisees are not physically blind, it stands to reason that they are asking Jesus if He considers them to be spiritually blind
It’s not clear if they believe themselves, to be the blind who will see, or if they are those who see, that will become blind
“I remember taking my youngest son to one of the national art galleries in Washington, D.C. As we made our approach, I was so excited about what we were going to see. He was decidedly unexcited. But I just knew that, once inside, he would have his mind blown and would thank me for what I had done for him that day. As it turned out, his mind wasn't blown; it wasn't even activated. I saw things of such stunning beauty that brought me to the edge of tears. He yawned, moaned, and complained his way through gallery after gallery. With every new gallery, I was enthralled, but each time we walked into a new art space, he begged me to leave. He was surrounded by glory but saw none of it. He stood in the middle of wonders but was bored out of his mind. His eyes worked well, but his heart was stone blind. He saw everything, but he saw nothing.”
Paul David Tripp, Awe: Why it Matters for Everything we Think, Say, and Do (Crossway, 2015), pp. 65-66; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky
The perspective of the Pharisees was the same as the boy in the art gallery, they had physical sight, but their hearts were completely set against believing in Jesus
Jesus’ presence clarifies our spiritual sight.
Jesus explains their condition
Jesus’ explanation (v. 41)
The explanation can seem like a riddle to us
What is Jesus really trying to say?
If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin
Jesus returns to the beginning of the episode about the blind man when His disciples asked Him the question about who had sinned, the blind man or his parents
Jesus’ response was that neither the man nor his parents had sinned
For the Pharisees, if they recognized their spiritual blindness they would not be guilty of sin, because they would then believe in Jesus and have eternal life – they would see their need to be saved
But now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains
“To ‘see’ is to recognize who Jesus is and worship him, as the blind man finally did. In saying, ‘We see,’ therefore, they are lying, for they have not believed in Jesus. The likely point is that everyone is ‘born blind’ in the sense of being unable to ‘see the kingdom of God’ or enter it without a second birth (see 3:3, 5). This in itself is not sin. Nicodemus, for example, was never accused of sin. The sin comes in the lie that ‘We see,’ and that consequently no new birth is needed or wanted.” [Michaels, 575]
“As Jesus makes clear, it is not the Pharisees’ sin, but their repudiation of grace, that renders them lost (Ridderbos 1997: 351). There is no cure for people who reject the only cure there is (Barrett 1978: 366; cf. Bultmann 1971: 341-42) and no hope for those who are wise in their own eyes (Prov. 26:12; Kruse 2003: 231).” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 295-96]
John 3:19-21, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Every one of us has a choice to make
Will you recognize your spiritual blindness and seek spiritual sight, by believing in Jesus?
Will you continue to think you have spiritual sight and refuse to believe in Jesus?
As followers of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to share with others how to receive spiritual sight through Jesus Christ
“Jesus is clear that it is dangerous for a person to close one's ears, eyes, and heart to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In The Magician's Nephew, a novel from C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series, Narnia is created when Aslan—the Lion who represents Jesus—sings it into being. The creation song reveals Aslan's majesty and glory. It is a grand ‘call to worship!’ But there is one, Uncle Andrew, who refuses to hear it, and the consequences are staggering.
When the great moment came and the Beast spoke, he missed the whole point for a rather interesting reason. When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel.
Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (‘only a lion,’ as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make himself believe that it wasn't singing and never had been singing—only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. ‘Of course it can't really have been singing,’ he thought, ‘I must have imagined it. I've been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?’ And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan's song. Soon he couldn't have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, ‘Narnia awake,’ he didn't hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, bayings and howlings.”
C. S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew (Collier Books), pp.125-26; submitted by Eugene A Maddox, Interlachen, Florida.